Written by Clair Hawkridge, Resource Development Officer in South Africa
Sukuma Project in Mabheleni Village, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, is a group of 172 small farmers working partnership with Heifer International South Africa. On 18 July 2011, more than 100 project members, community members and volunteers gathered in the village to help plant fruit trees at their homes of project members, in honor of Nelson Mandela International Day. The Heifer International South Africa team coordinated the event and help support this great example of Sharing and Caring.
Nelson Mandela, former South African president and winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace, dedicated 67 years of his life to the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa and to leading the fight for human rights. The United Nations has declared 18 July Nelson Mandela International Day. On this day, Nelson Mandela’s birthday, people across South Africa and around the world dedicate 67 minutes to helping those in need.
The members of the Sukuma Project are working towards becoming successful small-scale egg producers. Each project member will soon be receiving chickens. They will also grow vegetables and fruit. The orange, mango and avocado trees that were planted on Mandela Day will provide fruit for sale and for project families to eat.
The group spent the morning moving from house to house planting the trees. Part of the aim of Mandela Day is to encourage people to help one another in the spirit of the Ubuntu – the belief, fundamental in many African cultures, that a person is only a person because he or she cares for and helps others. This group showed how project members can work together and work with Heifer to make the lives of the whole community better.
Even the local chief joined in. Chief Nelisiwe Mbhele has been very supportive of the project. She sees it as a way for some of her people to get out of poverty. “This project is a very good project. It is assisting poor women get some food because sometimes there is no food for cooking,” she said.
Project members are also very excited about the project. Mrs Busisiwe Mbhele (52) said, “I joined the project because I am very poor and my husband passed away. I am looking forward to having chickens that will lay eggs. Then I can sell the eggs and have money to buy things”. Mrs Mbhele supports her three sons who have been unable to find work.
Another project member told us that the fruit trees would make a huge difference for her. Mrs Eustina Mkhize (60) has 8 children and 17 grandchildren, 7 of whom live with her. She also supports one child of 8 who is an orphan. “I’m very excited about the trees,” she said. “I am hoping to sell the fruit and to eat it with my children”.
In the afternoon, everyone went up to the local school, Esiwoyeni Primary School. The school has a food garden that produces vegetables for the school feeding scheme. Miss BZ Zulu said that attendance at the school has increased dramatically since they began providing hot meals for the children. The project members and volunteers planted an orange tree so that the school pupils will be able to have fruit as well as vegetables.
It would have been impossible to plant all of the trees in one day (over 300 trees) but it was a great opportunity to share Mandela Day with the Sukuma Project members and see how committed they all are to helping each other to make the project a success.